HOLMGREN: Hagler’s dominance lifted Bearcats to championship

On Nov. 12, 2013, North Star’s Sarah Hagler went off for a staggering 43 kills and 33 digs in a heartbreaking five-set loss to Lakota-Edmore in the Region 4 tournament semifinals.

When the fax with that box score came in, former Minot Daily News sports writer Mike Kraft and I stared at each other blankly, our jaws fully dropped.

Forty-three kills!!

We couldn’t believe our eyes. And then we were so disappointed that Hagler wouldn’t be playing in the Class B state tournament the following week.

This year, Hagler made sure her team reached the state tournament by taking over matches when it mattered most.

If you were in attendance at the Minot State Dome last month for the state volleyball tournaments, Hagler surely caught your eye.

It was a treat.

In North Star’s first trip to the big dance, the 5-foot-10 senior middle blocker proved that not only is she the most dynamic player in Class B, but the most dominant hitter, as well.

Hagler, named the Class B senior athlete of the year, carried the Bearcats to the state championship, capped by a masterful sweep of previously unbeaten Hankinson in the title match.

It should come as no surprise that Hagler has been selected as The Minot Daily News’ all-area volleyball player of the year.

Like her brother Jacob, the 2012-13 Minot Daily News all-area player of the year for boys basketball, Hagler has the clutch gene.

In a five-set semifinal win over Region 6 champion Our Redeemer’s Christian School – without a doubt the highest-quality match of the state tournament – Hagler recorded 27 kills, 22 digs and six blocks as the Bearcats overcame a pair of one-set deficits.

“She has the ability to take over a game and we’ve seen it in a lot of her years for the Bearcats,” said Marla Hagler, her mother and coach. “Good time to do it tonight. She doesn’t fail us very often.”

Sarah Hagler, who will play at Minnesota State-Moorhead next fall, tallied 619 kills this year on an absurd .454 hitting percentage. She finished 49 shy of 2,000 kills for her career.

Second-year ORCS coach Kara Nunziato led the Knights to third place at the state tournament, their second-best finish in school history. For that feat, she has been named the all-area coach of the year.

Nunziato, the Region 6 coach of the year and District 12’s co-coach of the year, played on the ORCS state runner-up team in 2004.

The Knights’ will return loads of experience from a squad that finished 40-5. With Nunziato at the helm, infusing a scrappy, defensive mentality in her players, ORCS will be a contender for a state championship in 2015.

Hagler is joined on the all-area first team by teammate Macey Kvilvang, Bishop Ryan’s Gabbie Bohl and Hannah Stewart, ORCS’ Morgan Olson and Stanley’s Brianna Holland.

Kvilvang, a 6-foot-4 sophomore middle blocker, developed well throughout the offseason and provided plenty of firepower (444 kills on .371 hitting with 107 blocks) to supplement Hagler.

Bohl and Stewart, both senior middle blockers, were dominant on an otherwise inexperienced Ryan squad. Both were named all-state, but neither will play in college. Bohl – the Region 6 senior athlete of the year – will play basketball for Mary, while Stewart – the two-time reigning all-area girls basketball player of the year – has signed to hoop for Iowa.

Olson, a repeat first-team selection and only a sophomore, can do it all: hit, set and defend. She finished with 454 kills, 409 digs and 370 assists and was named all-state for a second straight year. In the state tournament, Olson registered two triple-doubles, the most in Class B.

Holland, the Region 8 senior athlete of the year, played key roles on multiple state tournament squads throughout her career. She racked up 2,227 career assists and was named all-state this season.

Des Lacs-Burlington junior middle blockers and twin sisters Brittany and Megan DeGree headline the all-area second team, which also includes Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood senior outside hitter Callie Carlson, ORCS sophomore middle blocker Makayla Gartner, Burke County senior setter Taylor Peterson and Minot High senior pin hitter Brooke Suko.

The three at-large picks are: ORCS sophomore libero Lauren Hendrickson, Rolla senior middle blocker Alli Vandal and Rolette-Wolford junior middle blocker Lexy Wittmayer.

Minot Daily News sports editor Ryan Holmgren selected the all-area volleyball team. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.